Thursday, March 4, 2021

My wayback machine wish list

The Doors refining their craft on stage at the London Fog in LA

Among my collection of T-shirts is one with a message that asserts, “I may be old but at least I got to see all the cool bands.”

Well, not really. There were a lot of really cool bands and musicians that I missed out on back in the day, a veritable slew of if-onlys.

So, if I had a time machine and could make one trip back to the past, who would I see? Interesting question. I’ll let you know in a minute or two.

That question was asked of 1017 adults nationwide in a January 2014 telephone poll for CBS News. The performer most people wanted to see came as a complete surprise to me.

Twenty-two percent of respondents said they would go back to the 1950s to see Buddy Holly perform with the Crickets. Maybe Don McLean was onto something when he built his “American Pie” magnum opus around the death of Buddy Holly in 1959.

Twenty-one percent said their dream trip backwards would be to the 1970s to see Freddy Mercury perform with Queen. The psychedelic '60s to "experience" Jimi Hendrix first hand was the draw of 21 percent of those polled. An open door back to the 1960s to see Jim Morrison and The Doors in their prime was the lure for 13 percent, while 11 percent were ready to don their flannel shirts and travel back to the 1990s and seek Nirvana in the form of Kurt Cobain. Nine percent would skip the trip altogether. 

There were some other interesting questions in the poll, including which musical genre has reached its peak. Overwhelmingly the choice for obsolescence was rap/hiphop.

Here’s what CBS wrote at the time: “Half of all Americans think that as a musical form, hiphop has most likely reached its peak and will not get any better. Twenty percent think that country music has reached its plateau, 10 percent think rock has reached its apogee, 9 percent say pop has reached its zenith and only 7 percent think that R&B should RIP. It may be that because hiphop is the most recently developed genre, it has not had the time to develop as strong and loyal a fan base as the other musical categories have. However, people of every age group including those 18-35 voted hiphop most likely to have peaked, now that's a bad rap.”

And which decade had the worst music? In 2014, people thought it was the music of the then here and now.

Again, from CBS: “There's no time like the present ... for bad music. Forty-two percent of Americans think that this decade has the worst music compared with the other four most recent decades. Next in order are the 2000s (15 percent), 1990s (13 percent), 1980s (14 percent) and the 1970s (12 percent). People of all stripes are in agreement on this one. The '70s had classic rock and disco, the '80s had pop and new wave, the '90s had hiphop, alternative rock and grunge, but starting around the turn of the century, Americans seem to feel music has hit a rough patch. Many people are predisposed to feel nostalgia for the music and songs of their youth, but by a wide margin, even today's younger set feels that this decade's music is the worst.”

One more question from the poll I want to share: Which artist would you want your child to study?

It was a near tossup between The Beatles (33 percent) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (32 percent) as to which artist's music Americans would choose to have their children study. Next in order were Michael Jackson (14 percent), Billie Holiday (9 percent) and Jay-Z (5 percent).

“People (mostly Baby Boomers) between the ages of 45 and 64 favored the Beatles, while those under 45 as well as those over 65 went with the brilliant 18th-century composer,” wrote CBS. “ It's a tribute to Mozart's genius that he could win a strong coalition of the youngest and oldest people in the country, now that's staying power.”

I’m not certain how relevant a 7-year-old music opinion poll is to today’s world, but I still found it interesting as a moment-in-time study.

Now, my top pick for a back-in-time concert trip would be to 1966 Los Angeles to the Whisky A Go Go to see The Doors take the stage before they burst upon the scene in January 1967 with their debut album. With the knowledge of what they became, it would be fascinating to be on hand for the genesis of their evolution into the greatest rock band of all time.

But, if my wayback machine had unlimited uses, where would I go? Not in any particular order, here are my top 10 time-trip destinations:

1. California’s Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. The granddaddy of the great rock festivals to come, this three-day event saw the first major American performances by the Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Who. Otis Redding was introduced to a mass audience, and Janis Joplin had her first large-scale public performance. 

2. San Francisco in 1967 for the Summer Of Love. Turn on, tune in and drop out at the Human Be-In, free concerts by Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead in Golden Gate Park and hippie culture at Haight-Ashbury.

3. Shea Stadium in 1965 for The Beatles. Imagine being on hand for the beginning of the Fab Four’s takeover of the world. Bookmark that trip with one to London in January 1969 for the group’s unannounced performance atop the roof of their Apple Corps headquarters, the last public performance by John, Paul, George and Ringo. The alpha and the omega.

4. August 1969 for the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in New York, bookmarked by the December 1969 Rolling Stones concert at Altamont Speedway in California. The apogee of the spirit of the 1960s and the ugly, violent event that brought it all crashing down.

5. Newport Folk Festival in 1965 to see if Bob Dylan truly was booed off the stage by folk purists for the unforgivable offense of plugging in an electric guitar. 

6. Wisconsin’s Alpine Valley Music Theater in August 1990 for Texas blues rocker Stevie Ray Vaughan, who died in a helicopter crash shortly after the show. Vaughan, who opened for Eric Clapton, returned to the stage alongside Clapton, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray and brother Jimmie Vaughan for an epic, 16-minute jam on Robert Johnson’s “Sweet Home Chicago.” It was the final performance of  Stevie RayVaughan’s life.  

7. March 27-28, 1970, New York’s Fillmore East, for the Mad Dogs & Englishmen tour by Joe Cocker and Leon Russell. These two shows were the basis for the double album live recording. 

8. Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami, March 1, 1969. The beginning of the end for The Doors. In a hot, cramped sweaty venue, Jim Morrison, fueled by alcohol and drugs, berated the audience, taunted police and allegedly whipped out his penis. It was a chaotic mess. Morrison was convicted of public exposure and profanity but died two years later while his conviction was under appeal. 

The Boss takes charge.

9. Hollywood, CA, The Roxy, July 7, 1978, Bruce Springsteen, on his Darkness On The Edge Of Town tour. This show is legendary among Springsteen fans. He started with a cover of Buddy Holly's “Rave On” and wrapped up three-plus hours later with “Twist and Shout.” In between were stories, songs and rock and roll that could only come from The Boss.

10. San Bernardino, CA, Sept. 3-5, 1982, the first US Festival. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak sponsored a three-day "music and culture" festival to bridge then-state-of-the-art technology (computers were still a novelty for everyday home use) along with classic rock performers and emerging New Wave acts.

This is my wish list. When and where would you go if you had the chance?

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